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Interagency Task Force Continues Work on Cervical Cancer


Participants at the tenth UNIATF meeting hosted at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: G. Hinterleitner/IAEA)

An update on the progress of the United Nations (UN) Joint Global Programme on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control was presented at the tenth meeting of the UN Interagency Task Force on Noncommunicable Disease (UNIATF). The meeting, in which 17 different UN organizations were represented, is hosted by the IAEA in Vienna this week.

“While we are on the right track, we need to scale up our support to Member States significantly,” said Nick Banatvala, Head of the UNIATF Secretariat in WHO. “That means more ambitious programmes and resource mobilization efforts, including for example the cervical cancer programme.”

Cervical cancer remains one of the most, preventable and treatable causes of death for women in developing countries, causing approximately 270 000 deaths in 2015. Of this number 90% were in low- and middle-income countries because those countries often lack the screening procedures that would allow early diagnosis and the availability of treatment.

“The Task Force provides a platform for the IAEA to coordinate its work in nuclear applications, including cancer control with other UN agencies in an integrated manner,” said May Abdel Wahab, Director of the Division of Human Health at the IAEA, and co-moderator of this week’s meeting. “The UN joint program on cervical cancer prevention and control is one example of the synergies encouraged through the IATF where seven UN agencies are working together through joint inception missions and support of development of joint work plans that address the cervical cancer challenge all the way from prevention and HPV vaccination, to diagnosis, treatment, including radiotherapy and palliation.”

Founded by UNIATF in 2016, the UN Joint Global Programme on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control works to mitigate the impact of cervical cancer in countries where proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment mechanisms are needed. It was introduced in six priority countries. The eventual goal of the programme is to become global in scale and take on more partners, along with enhanced involvement of national governments and civil society.

“The UN system, through the Task Force, is well positioned to contribute to the global NCD response,” said Banatvala. “The Tenth Meeting of the Task Force, hosted by IAEA, provides the opportunity for UN agencies to agree how collectively they will scale up support to countries in tackling the NCD-related SDGs. 2018 is a crucial year for NCDs, with the Third High-level meeting on NCDs being held during the UN General Assembly.”


Nuclear techniques such as brachytherapy, a form of  radiotherapy, can help in the early diagnosis and treatment of cancers, including cervical cancer. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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